Visiting Machu Picchu is the dream of many that, just like us, love to travel. Fortunately, we can say that we have already had the privilege of visiting one of the biggest treasures of humanity and we can also guarantee that it is a fantastic experience, that we highly recommend to anyone who can to least do it once in their lifetime.
However, when we marked our trip to Peru, where one of the main objectives, if not the main one, was to visit Machu Picchu, we discovered that there was a need for some preparation and planning, and this is not one so easy task as it might seem at first sight. As we always try to avoid organized trips, and we like to plan and organize our own experiences, we began to study our trip in detail and we leave here our opinion about 20 things that we consider important to know when planning your trip to Machu Picchu. We hope it will be a great help to plan your trip and, if you have not decided to go, we promise you will not regret it.
1- How to buy the ticket to Machu Picchu. When planning your trip to Machu Picchu, you should organize and plan the precise day you will visit Machu Picchu, and then buy your ticket in advance. Never forget, Machu Picchu has a limited number of daily tickets and nothing worse than planning your trip to Peru than, when you want to reach the high point of your trip, you discover that you do not have a ticket to visit Machu Picchu.
It is a fact that very often, tickets to Machu Picchu may not be sold out, but in times of more tourists arrive at Cusco, this is not uncommon to happen and, if there is a possibility of buying your ticket in the comfort of your own home, why not do it and be completely safe? You can do so through the official government website (click here) and, if you decide to make the journey to Aguas Calientes by train, we suggest that you book your train trip at the same time you buy your ticket to Machu Picchu, to be sure of the availability of both. You can make the purchase of your train ticket through IncaRail and PeruRail (click on the company’s name’s to go to their official websites).
Unlike the ticket to Machu Picchu, the cost of your train trip may vary, so we recommend buying in advance and comparing the different schedules and offers of the two companies in order to get the best deal. Take note that, in some cases, you will get a meal with the train ride.
If you do not choose to buy your Machu Picchu tickets online, you can do so in the city of Cusco, at the Ministry of Culture, from Monday to Saturday, from 7 to 20 hours. You can also buy it in Aguas Calientes, at the Ministry of Culture, which has the opening hours from Monday to Sunday, from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm (click on the names to see the exact address on Google Maps). You can also buy your tickets for Machu Picchu at any Banco de Nacion, spread across several cities in Peru. Do not forget that you need to have your passport to get your ticket, and if you want to get a student ticket, bring your student card.
2- How to buy Machu Picchu tickets for children. This is a question that can confuse many people, as there is not much clear information. Although it is possible to purchase tickets for children and students with a discount, they can not be purchased through the official government website, so you will have to do it through an authorized touristic agency, which will cost you extra money or you will have to make your buy only in person, in the places mentioned above. The good news is that if your child is 7 or under, you will not have to purchase a ticket, as admission is free when accompanied by adults with a ticket
3- How to get to Machu Picchu. There are 3 main chances to reach Machu Picchu. You can make your way on foot, and the most famous route is through the Inca Trail, a walking route that takes about 4 days, but it’s not the only one. The second hypothesis is through the expensive train, with the best option is doing the connection between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes. For last but not least, but much cheaper, there’s the possibility of taking a collective transport to the Hydroelectric and then making a journey on foot about 2 hours to Aguas Calientes. In all three cases, you can then choose to go up and down from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu on foot or buy a minibus ticket that costs USD 12 each way.
4- When to go. The first minivan that goes from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu leaves at 5:30 in the morning. If you want to be one of the first to arrive and have the privilege of seeing the sunrise in this fantastic place, prepare yourself because you will have to lose a few hours of sleep but we can guarantee that it is worth it. However, it is not enough to arrive a little before 5:30 am to pick up your transport, because queues are formed a long time before, so at least one hour before departure we recommend that you join the queue, although it is always difficult to say how long before it you should arrive, as it varies greatly depending on the time of year in which you will make your visit.
5- How to avoid crowds in Machu Picchu. It is not easy to avoid crowds in Machu Picchu as it is one of the most desired places to visit in the world and, like us, very much want to know it. Despite the difficulties, there are some ideas that can help. One of them is to start very early, as we mentioned, if you are one of the first people to climb, you will have time before the biggest crowds, coming from Cusco, arrive at the destiny. Another good alternative is to book your visit more towards the end of the day, as Machu Picchu tends to have more visits in the morning than in the afternoon. Another of the chances is to escape the times of greater tourist flow, which tend to coincide with summer in Europe and North America, namely from June to September. Of course, visiting Machu Picchu during the rainy season may not be the wish of all of us but, from the middle of April until October, rainfall possibilities decrease considerably and make the chances of a visit without water greater.
6- Inca Trail. If you want to do the Inca Trail, you should make your reservation well in advance, as only 500 people are allowed per day, and this route tends to run out, especially in high season. Be prepared that it will always be an expensive option and you can not do it without a guide, so you always have to go to a certified agency.
7- Huayna Picchu. What also-rans out quickly is the possibility of acquiring the ticket that gives access to climb the mountain Huayna Picchu or the mountain Machu Picchu. This leads to a walk that for many is an experience that makes the visit to Machu Picchu even more unforgettable, but for others, as was our case, we did not consider it essential. This is a personal choice that we invite you to consider before buying the ticket, but as both tickets have an even smaller offer, and tend to sell out quickly, you will have to buy them in advance. To purchase tickets or just to check their availability, check the official website here.
8- Go slow. Make your way without haste. There are two main parts of the route, and when you enter, you may feel an irresistible urge to go very quickly to the far side of the place where you start the visit, with the intention of returning later where you started your visit. However, this is not allowed and, if you try to “go back”, you will not be allowed to do so, only if you have a ticket to Machu Picchu Mountain or to Huayna Picchu. So, make the most of the hours you have to spend in this spectacular place, without haste.
9- Food and drink. This is a very pertinent question in Machu Picchu. According to the visiting rules, that was changed in 2019, you can not carry water that is not transported in reusable bottles, such as camping-type bottles. Also in relation to food, it is forbidden to be taken inland. However, through our experience, as well as other people we share, this is not a rule that is actually used and there is no effective control of the interior of the suitcases that people enter in Machu Picchu, so easily you will see people with plastic bottles and eating during their visit. However, you never know when the control will become more effective and we recommend that you always take care of the cleaning issue, do not take anything that could harm the environment where you are, especially when your environment is a treasure of humanity.
10- Bathrooms. If in relation to the rule of food and water there has been some slightness in the way it is applied, the same does not refer to the bathroom, as they do not exist within Machu Picchu. There is however a bathroom at the entrance, which we recommend you to use, despite being paid, as the vast majority of the bathrooms in Aguas Calientes. It is recommended that you hold your bladder during your visit but if it is not possible, usually asking at the entrance it is possible to go to the bathroom and re-enter you will be able to do it.
11- Backpacks in Machu Picchu. Another issue to take into account when making your visit to Machu Picchu is related to the entrance of backpacks, which can not pass the limits of 40 x 35 x 20 cm, and have the maximum capacity of 20 Lts. However, you can leave them stored in Aguas Calientes, before picking up the minibus or storing them in the precinct, where are two possibilities, one before entering and another after, and the value is not high, especially the hypothesis after entering, that is even less expensive.
12- Walking-sticks. Although they are an aid to hikers, indoors in Machu Picchu it is not allowed to use walking-sticks, so do not take them. This is linked to the need to protect the heritage, so it is not allowed to jump, so characteristic in some poses of photographs that, in this specific place and, in order to protect the space, are not allowed and, the same applies to drones, they are not allowed.
13- What to take to Machu Picchu. There are some items that you can not miss on your visit to Machu Picchu. One of them, of course, is proper clothing, always pay attention to the weather, as it can be very hot, very cold and beware of the rain, so prepare yourself properly. In addition to the care of the clothes, attention must be paid to the sun, Machu Picchu it is about 2,500 meters high, not far from the Equador line and, even though it may not seem like it, sunscreen is a necessity that we can never neglect. Put on sunscreen before you start your visit and take it with you to put it back during the visit. Also do not forget to bring a hat, sunglasses and, also very important, insect repellent. Something you’ll often see are street vendors with repellents for your visit to Machu Picchu and when you get there you’ll realize why. You may not feel the bites right at the time but later you will be sorry if you did not use repellent.
14- Give your body some time to rest. Do not go to Machu Picchu as soon as you reach the Andes. When you land in Cusco, you will be more than 3000 meters higher in relation to the height of the sea, which can cause several symptoms related to altitude sickness, or soroche, as referred by locals (see here how you can prevent and deal with the altitude sickness). One problem that occurs is that many people mark their visit for the day after landing in Cusco and it is usually the day after that the body manifests many of the symptoms of altitude sickness, namely headaches, vomiting, between others. As no one wants to visit Machu Picchu we recommend that you do not plan to go to Machu Picchu on the first, second day in Cusco, give your body time to get used to and take some time to enjoy some of the wonders of Cusco and the Sacred Valley has to offer.
15- Do I need a guide to visit Machu Picchu? One of the questions that many people put up is if they need a guide to make the visit to Machu Picchu. The rules for visiting Machu Picchu in 2019, say that anyone who visits this site should do it with an official guide. However, this is an obligation that will greatly increase the cost of your visit and, many people do not like to take guided tours and, in our case, we usually also try to make the discoveries at our pace and, in relation to Machu Picchu, with proper preparation and study, we even believe that it is not necessary to use a guide.
Fortunately, the rule of compulsory recourse to an official guide is still not being implemented (2019), and we are able to make the journey at our will. If you want to use the services of a guide, but want to save some money, you can ask the guide to gather a set of visitors and thus share the costs of the visit. You can order the services of a guide to the entrance of Machu Picchu or even in Aguas Calientes and, as in so much in Peru, do not forget to haggle and look for the best price.
16- Follow the authorized routes. Who arrives in Machu Picchu usually comes imbued with the spirit of discovery and adventure. However, this impetus must be controlled and attention must be paid to the fact that it is located in a heritage site of humanity and that it is appropriate to fight for its preservation. In this way, we recommend that you always follow the path outlined and that you do not step on the walls. In addition, if you do, you will quickly have a safety talking with you (and they do it very often). Don’t forget, any act less reflected on your part may put in danger a unique patrimony of humanity.
17- Always take your passport. This is something that applies in many of the experiences in Peru but in Machu Picchu, it applies a lot because to buy the train tickets, the minibus ticket to climb to Machu Picchu and, to buy the tickets to Machu Picchu, you need to do so using your passport. In addition, when you enter, you will need to show your passport again, along with the printed tickets. Therefore, do not forget to bring your passport.
18- Machu Picchu stamp on your passport. And, since we speak of a passport in Machu Picchu, do you know that you can add a stamp of Machu Picchu to your passport? It’s not like you are in a different country, but the truth is that we love to see stamps on our passport, it’s always a good sign, and if you wish, you can do it in Machu Picchu. It’s right at the entrance, on your right-hand side, when you walk towards the toilets. You will see a small table with a stamp, where an official may be there stamping the passport to whoever wishes it, or it may be only the stamp and you can do it yourself.
19- Do not book tours online. We really enjoyed making our own travel plans but generally, we searched online to do a price survey and something that startled us was the prices we found online for the tours/activities to be carried out by Peru, including the visit to Machu Picchu. Something that we can warn you is that, do not make any online reservation, except, of course, the purchase of tickets, train or Inka Trail and, of course, hotels. As for the rest, do not worry, you will have no shortage of offers as soon as you reach your destination. We promise, sometimes you will be tired of having so much supply. However, we can guarantee that prices are much cheaper when negotiated with operators in Peru, and the values presented online have nothing to do with those who are in person. Just do not forget, always negotiate and, do not just go to Machu Picchu, enjoy everything else that the Sacred Valley has to offer.
And so we conclude our set of things that we think are important to know before going to Machu Picchu. Finally, we can not fail to ask those who visit this wonderful place that devotes its respect. It is not many times in life that we have the opportunity to be in a place that makes us feel so privileged and, nothing worse than disregard that honor than not present the appropriate behavior and we must not forget that this place deserves and must be preserved to the maximum, so that whoever visits him has the obligation to leave it exactly as he found it, in the hope that future generations will have the privilege that we have to know Machu Picchu.
20- Llamas in Machu Picchu. Just another information. Yes, there are Llamas in Machu Picchu and, you can touch the llamas, they are very used to people and they are very sociable and sweet.
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We would also like to invite you to leave your opinion and questions and, in case you have already visited Machu Picchu, let us know what is your opinion and experience using our comments box. Thanks for your visit to our Non Stop Family Travel Blog, come back often and, if you liked our article, don’t forget to share it with your friends.
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